Playgroup left fighting for survival in funding crisis

Parents, leaders and children at Derrytrasna Playgroup with Councillors Declan McAlinden, Mairead O'Dowd and Mary McAlinden, South Lough Neagh Regeneration Association. INLM0512-140gc

Parents, leaders and children at Derrytrasna Playgroup with Councillors Declan McAlinden, Mairead O'Dowd and Mary McAlinden, South Lough Neagh Regeneration Association. INLM0512-140gc

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DERRYTRASNA playgroup is fighting for survival.

The fate of the local village primary school, St Mary’s, is also at stake if the playgroup fails to raise enough money to build a new mobile classroom.

For two decades the group was based in a classroom at St Mary’s, but has since had to move to a nearby community hall after the school expanded.

£50,000 of funding was secured from the Southern Organisation for Action in Rural Areas (SOAR) to build a new classroom.

However, the group has to raise another £20,000 in order to stay open, which is proving extremely difficult.

Joan Aldridge, principal of St Mary’s Primary School, said there would be a “very real danger” to the school if the playgroup could not stay open.

“A small school like ours relies heavily on the flow of pupils from playgroups,” she said.

“At the minute there are 97 pupils in the school. Next year we will have just over 100.

“We need the numbers that come from the playgroup to keep the school viable.”

Previous inspections by authorities have reported that the group has an extremely good reputation in the area.

One report said: “The quality of the interaction between the staff and the children is consistently of a high standard.”

Deirdre McShane, secretary for the playgroup, said it provided a “vital service”.

SDLP councillor and Sarsfield’s GAA chairman Declan McAlinden is one of those involved in the campaign to save the playgroup from closure.

“The staff at the playgroup provide an excellent service to families in this area.

“I’m hoping people will come out and support them. The closure of this playgroup would be devastating for this rural community.”